I read a book: Left to You, by Daniel J. Volpe

I decided to expose my book group to more Daniel J. Volpe this month. Cool Ghouls hasn’t picked up much steam, but there are a few people who join every time and that’s enough motivation to keep doing it. If I can get one person to read something I like, I’m a happy camper. Speaking of books I liked…

There is so much to say about Left to You, by Daniel J. Volpe. It is haunting and intense, and that’s before you even get to any of the splatter parts.

A good chunk of the story is a Holocaust survivor recounting his days at Auschwitz in great horrifying detail. I knew this going into it. I also knew there was a splatter twist that would set it apart from the usual real world horror tales. I’ve read a lot of WWII stories from multiple perspectives. I’ve read first hand accounts of real survivors. I’ve read descriptions of the smells in the camps. But this was the first time I’ve seen the smell of the gas described, and I admit I thought about it when I opened my bottle of almond extract while baking this weekend. Little details like that can turn a generic fictional Holocaust story into something special, something that sticks with the reader. And it’s the big details, like figurative demons (Nazis) capturing literal demons and using them to grant their wishes, that turn a sad story into one that kicks the reader in the teeth. And that ending…wow.

In a way, the ending felt open. Will there be a sequel or spinoff? Who knows, but I know one thing. I’ll read that too.

This is my second Daniel J. Volpe read (Talia was the first). I loved both. I will eventually read my way through his entire catalog. Splatterpunk and indie horror can be a gamble. It’s a genre I enjoy and while most books I’ve read at least have good stories, some could benefit from a little editing finesse. Volpe’s books are just plain good though.

You can find Volpe’s books available on Amazon, Kindle Unlimited, and Godless. Borrow Left to You on KU or just buy it!

Monthly roundup – July 2022

I didn’t get to most of the books that I planned to read this month. My TBR is fluid and ever growing. Still, I read some amazing books and some mediocre books.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
The Undead Possession Series (book 1: Infestation), by Justin Boote
The Half-Orc’s Maiden Bride, by Ruby Dixon
High Plains Cyborg (Cyborgs on Mars #0.5), by Honey Phillips
Captive of the Horde King (Horde Kings of Dakkar #1), by Zoey Draven
The Groomer, by Jon Athan (CGBC)
Fucking Filth: An Extreme Gross Out, by Matt Shaw
Beth and the Barbarian (Alien Abduction #2), by Honey Phillips

⭐️⭐️⭐️:
One Day in December
The Good, the Bad, and the Cyborg (Cyborgs on Mars #1), by Honey Phillips

Anything not listed I rated at 3 or below. The first four of the Digital Desires series were hilarious. Three stars for entertainment factor. The last couple didn’t have the laugh out loud moments so I rated them lower and decided against reading more of that author’s work.

On the agenda for August are the group’s book club reads, more of the Black Stars and Murderbot Diaries series, and whatever other weird stuff KU suggests.

Have you read any of these? Do you have recommendations similar to anything I’ve listed?

Letters to the dead: Silver Autumn

Dearest Silver Autumn,

It’s been so long since we last spoke. We once had a very special bond, complicated and forbidden, hence your chosen moniker for me. Sub Rosa, Latin for under the rose, denoting secrecy.

I held on to your letters. They reside in the same box I kept them in so many years ago, a box plastered in band picture and electrical tape. Your emails remain in my inbox. I read them every few years and I think of you with fondness. I’ll hold them always, and you’ll hold a piece of my heart always.

I will end this with your own words: I’ll see you when we are meant to meet.

Ex animo,

Sub Rosa

Small comforts and missed connections

I love Star Trek.

I have watched and rewatched every series, with exception to the new ones hidden behind the Paramount+ paywall. I’ve watched every movie multiple times. Futurama, with its abundance of Star Trek references, is one of my favorite shows. Star Trek (and Futurama) isn’t just a bunch of great shows, it’s a small comfort. You know that tweet about the connection between rewatching shows and anxiety that makes the rounds every so often? That’s what I’m talking about.

It’s also one of those things that I feel like I can connect with people on. So when someone muses about watching together, I get a little fluttery in the tummy and think yes, I can connect with this person.

I watched the first three movies today, after several months without that connection and without Star Trek. I am certainly not dwelling on anything, but it hadn’t occurred to me that it had been so long. And I feel…better.

I love Star Trek.

Compartment E – Family

My aunt died last week.

Truth be told, I don’t really know how to feel about that. Family has always been a weird subject for me. Family to me has always been the four people I grew up with and the one I spawned. My father came from a large family with many siblings, so I have tons of aunts, uncles, and cousins. But I don’t really know any of them. I mostly feel for my father, who despite being one of the first to visit her in the hospital, was left off the approved visitor list on her last day. And then indirectly scolded in a Facebook post by one of my cousins. He was ready to write them off because he felt he’d been written off. But then my uncle went into the hospital after suffering a mini heart attack and Dad had a change of heart, because he always comes through for his family, even if they don’t do the same for him. I guess that’s where I get it from. The difference is that my family circle is much tighter because I didn’t grow up with any expectations of my extended family.

And though I didn’t see her often, she was always present. I could always count on a social media reaction for every meme shared and a comment on every picture I posted. She came up in conversation every time we cooked out. She was not this happy jolly friendly picture that’s being painted of her, as happens when most people die. She was not that. But she was honest and real, and you could count on her not to be one way to your face and then talk shit behind your back.

I will miss her.

Monthly roundup – June 2022

So. I love books and I love reading them. I post these collages every month knowing I’m probably the only one who cares about what I’m reading and whether I enjoyed them or not. Maybe someone will see something new and interesting to them and ask questions. Maybe someone will see a favorite and want to talk about it. Maybe I’ll scare off a distant relative. My taste in entertainment is eclectic at best, worrying at worst. I’m sure some of the stuff I read has some folks wondering what is going on in my head, and that amuses me.

As usual, the month went by and I felt like I didn’t get much reading done. Then I started compiling the collage, and…15 books. And most were so good!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts: A Love Letter to Women of Color, by Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez
Dark Fire, by Ruby Dixon
Sworn to the Shadow God, by Ruby Dixon

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Zombie Haiku: Good Poetry for Your…Brains, by Ryan Mecum
Daisy’s Decision, by Ruby Dixon
POLYEMBOLOKOILAMANIA: An Extreme Horror, by Matt Shaw
The Girl Next Door, by Jack Ketchum
Bound to the Battle God, by Ruby Dixon
Wed to the Wild God, by Ruby Dixon

⭐️⭐️⭐️:
The rest.

That’s a lot of three star reads, but three stars is not a bad rating in my book. That just means I liked them but I’m not still thinking about them.

On the agenda for July are two giant tomes, Swan Song and The Dragon Reborn (Wheel of Time #3), the latest addition to Ruby Dixon’s Corsair Brothers series, and maybe some of the Star Trek novels I’ve been collecting. A handful of the kindle editions go on sale every month and my collection has grown quite a bit.

Have you read and loved any of these books? Hated? Leave a comment!

Monthly roundup – May 2022

No real stinkers this month. Once again I didn’t get through the third Wheel of Time book, but I made a decent dent in it. The big standout this month was The Keeper of Happy Endings, which surprised me because historical fiction isn’t my genre of choice. It was really good. I don’t know, maybe I’m getting a little sappy in my old age. Probably the same reason I liked The Space Between Us so much.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
The Space Between Us: Poetry and Prose, by Courtney Peppernell and Zack Grey
Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
The Keeper of Happy Endings, by Barbara Davis
Choice, by Jodi Picoult
Fire in Her Dreams, by Ruby Dixon

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Stolen Tongues, by Felix Blackwell
Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory, by Raphael Bob-Waksberg
Fire in His Chaos, by Ruby Dixon
Fire in Her Eyes, by Ruby Dixon
The Slob, by Aron Beauregard
Goldenrod: Poems, by Maggie Smith
I Live You, Call Me Back: Poems, by Sabrina Benaim
Fire in His Veins, by Ruby Dixon
Yard Work, by David Koepp

⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Winterset Hollow, by Jonathan Edward Durham
When She’s Lonely, by Ruby Dixon
The Fifth Survivor: Bacon Nightmares, by Angel Ramon
Anonymous, by Uzodinma Iweala
Ungirls, by Lauren Beukes
The Night Shift, by Alex Finlay

Winterset Hollow is pretty popular in the horror group on Facebook, so popular that there have been several posts by people with fresh tattoos if the rabbit on the cover. I wanted to love it. I usually love the books that are popular there. This one didn’t quite hit the spot for me. I know they can’t all be great, but I guess I had higher expectations for a tattoo worthy book. That said, I did like it.

On the agenda for June is that same Wheel of Time book, the last of Ruby Dixon’s dragon books, and a couple of book club selections. I may even catch up on my ARCs and finish up some drafts.

I read a book: The Keeper of Happy Endings, by Barbara Davis

I took a slightly different approach to choosing which books to add to the May book club selection poll. Usually I pick a bunch of books that I’ve accumulated through Amazon’s First Reads. I figured it’s a safe bet because lots of people have Amazon Prime, therefore have access to these books. And if they don’t have them, the kindle versions are always sold for $5 or less. Plus, libraries are a thing. Granted these books are not widely purchased by libraries, but I happen to know from my 20+ years of library work experience that libraries do take patron requests and if they aren’t in a position to purchase, they will try to find it via interlibrary loan. This month someone commented that she is unable to join book club because it isn’t available on Nook and I just shook my head. Come on. I’m doing my best to pick things that anyone can access. Fucking Nook…I bought one when they first came out, hated it, and returned it.

Anyway. This time I looked at bestseller lists and went as far as to make sure they were available at multiple libraries. Turns out that the one I added to my poll was also an Amazon First Reads from a while back. It isn’t one I own, but it is available on KU.

I’m rambling.

The book I chose was The Keeper of Happy Endings, by Barbara Davis. It is a cross between historical fiction and chick lit, two genres that are generally not my jam. A glance at my previous reviews or my Goodreads profile makes that pretty clear. But the book club loves this stuff, so here we are. I checked it out on KU and downloaded the Audible companion because when I’m reading genres that don’t usually keep my attention, I like to listen and follow along in the book. Keeps me focused. And boy did this one need the help in the beginning. Slow start. But when it picked up, it was so engaging that I didn’t want to put it down.

At first I didn’t care for the narration. This story is told from two different POVs, a young woman in the 1980s and an older French woman recollecting her work with the resistance and her lost love. The narrator for the latter chose to take on an accent and two different pitches to signify young Soline and current Soline. The accent was grating. The high pitched “youthful” voice was irritating. But the story was wonderful, so I sped up the audio to match my visual reading speed and plowed forward. I became so absorbed in the story that the things that bothered me about the narration no longer did.

I want to say that I figured out the twist fairy early on. The clues were there and I put it together as the story progressed. But it wasn’t so obvious that it ruined the journey. I went into this expecting happy endings and got them. Everything wrapped up in a neat little package, which usually annoys me, but in this case…I’m not mad. I loved it.

Maybe historical fiction/chick lit is my jam after all.

You can find The Keeper of Happy Endings on Amazon in print, ebook, and audio, all major retailers, or at one of many libraries in the country.

Mother’s Day

My feelings about my status as a mother have always been complicated at best. When Mother’s Day comes around, I celebrate my mother, not myself. This year I baked her a cheesecake. In a unplanned change of the status quo, when I was choosing a bouquet of flowers for mom, I decided I wanted flowers too and ended up buying two bouquets, mingling them, and splitting them into two vases.

Maybe one day I will publish the companion compartment draft to this post. Today is not that day. Today I celebrate my mom, and in a small way, myself.

Monthly roundup – April 2022

Another month, another collage. Lots of great poetry, horror, and bizarro. Didn’t expect to love the dragons as much as I did, but here I am starting the sixth book. I don’t know what it is about Ruby Dixon, but her books make me feel good. Even the ones about the end of humanity as we know it. Skipped over Wheel of Time again. Maybe May is the month for volume 3.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Fire in His Spirit, by Ruby Dixon
Not a Lot of Reasons to Sing, but Enough, by Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre
Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament, by S. G. Browne
The Tower, by William Pauley III
There Are Trans People Here, by H. Melt
On My Way to Liberation, by H. Melt
Talia, by Daniel J. Volpe
White Fuzz, by William Pauley III

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:
Plenitude, by Daniel Sarah Karasik
Annabel Lee, by Edgar Allan Poe
Fire in His Kiss, by Ruby Dixon
Fire in His Embrace, by Ruby Dixon
Fire in His Fury, by Ruby Dixon

⭐️⭐️⭐️:
The Wives, by Tarryn Fisher
Pest, by Matt Shaw

⭐️⭐️:
Mixed Feelings, by Abraham Rodriguez
Run Rose Run, by Dolly Parton and James Patterson

On the agenda for May is the third Wheel of Time book (once again), more dragons, more horror. My TBR is overflowing and grows larger with every book deal newsletter that graces my inbox. I have a couple of book club reads and a handful of NetGalley ARCs to get to this month. Maybe I’ll even get to those library books that I keep extending.